The removal of the mature trees on Park Street has caused quite a stir.
The sidewalk trees between Central and San Jose avenues on Park Street as a part of a long-planned .
While many residents were taken by surprise, the City of Alameda's Public Works director said Friday that the Alameda City Council approved the project, and that the staff reports about it included information about the removal and replacement of the street's trees.
"The council looked at the plan back in March, and looked at it again in September, and each of those staff reports included the fact that we would be removing the trees," Public Works Director Matthew Naclerio said.
The final streetscape will, said Naclerio, have twice as many trees as the street once did. Ginkgos will be planted in the final phase of the project, likely in February 2012, he said.
Ginkgos, along with crepe myrtle, are the two types of street trees that were selected for use in Alameda after a long community process, Naclerio said.
The removal of trees will allow for the removal of parking meters, installation of parking kiosks, bus shelters and new lights — as well as the planting of new trees.
"We’re balancing the needs of the community," Naclerio said, "which are to provide for an urban streetscape that is pretty — one reason we chose the crepe myrtle and the ginkgo is that they change colors — but also, when properly watered, these trees are less likely to have roots that raise sidewalks and creating tripping concerns."
"We’re balancing the need for a safe environment for pedestrians with creating an aesthetically pleasing one," he said.
Naclerio acknowledged that the community could have received better notice — that, for example, a press release about the project issued on Sept. 29 — should have included information about the tree removal.
"I will meet with my staff and look at how we can better get the word out," Naclerio said. "There are always improvements we can make and I think it would have been better to include in the press release that trees would be removed and also that the new streetscape will include new trees.
Naclerio also acknowledged that the two-day change is quite dramatic.
"You can't help but go down the street and note that there is a stark difference between what was there at the beginning of the week and what is there now," he said. "But if you think that in the future there’s going to be trees that helps to visualize what it will be like."
He also noted that many of the gingkos on the two blocks north of Central, which were updated a few years ago, have "had their heads snapped off." He said the city is replacing those damaged trees with those with thicker trucks.
"We're trying to learn from that phase of the project," he said, and so the ginkgos on the two blocks south of Park Street will have thicker trunks and therefore be less easily damaged.
But, for resident Stephen Robinson, like many Alamedans who walked or drove by Park Street in the last few days, the removal of the trees is upsetting. In an effort to protect a tree near his home, Robinson stood guard by the tree on the corner of Park Street and San Jose Avenue Thursday afternoon and again early Friday.
Friday morning he talked to two Alameda police officers who had been called by city workers because he was impeding their work.
"Yesterday they cut down almost all the trees on these two blocks," Robinson said. "Everyone was walking around wondering what happened to all the trees, so I am just trying to do what I can to see if I could save this tree."
An attorney, Robinson questioned whether the removal had been properly noticed and if workers had proper permitting to remove the electrical wiring that led to multi-colored Christmas tree lights that have apparently been a fixture in the tree for many years.
"I used to look out at night and see the lights on the tree," Robinson said. "Now the noise, the visual blight, it's all going to be worse once this tree is gone — it's just going to be a barren street. I might as well live in Oakland."
But, said Robinson, he was not going to get arrested to save the tree, and so when Alameda Police Officer Michael Abreu asked him to leave, he did.
"My position is that this is a city project, with city approvals," Abreu said, "and a city worker called us for assistance because a man was in the way of the project."
Robinson's tree was down by 11 a.m.
Here's about the tree removal. The city's master tree plan and also the city's press release about the project are attached to this article to the right. Click on the icons under the pictures to read them.